It’s a familiar fact of life in South Korea for many of our expats, especially if they look notably different than our ROK neighbors: the stare.
I have mostly come to peace with it. I admit it, I don’t look very Korean. I have broad shoulders, a big beard, pale skin, bald head and large frame. If I had grown up somewhere where the only person I saw like that was in the movies, on TV or in a magazine, I’d likely be a bit surprised if I saw them coming down my alleyway, too.
Add to this the fact (it’s science!) not as many people may actually be staring at us, and it should be something that should be put in the mental compartment of “mild, but acceptable, let’s move on” annoyances about living and working in South Korea.
Nevertheless, on some days, perceived or not, it’s annoying.
So, I could not help but crack a wide smile last night when, taking the No. 1000 bus home, we stopped at the light right outside the Cafe Blue (the little coffee shop in the building in front of deepest, darkest Blue Moon Hotel which, you may remember, was where I began this most recent Korean adventure). On its second floor could clearly be seen a trio of pretty Korean girls, maybe in their early 20s, chit-chatting over snacks.
The deluxe buses like the 1000 are larger than the regular buses, including larger windows. So, not only could they be clearly seen, but so could I. One of the girls noticed me staring up at them and immediately began waving her arms as the other two joined in, one eventually giving me the “sarang-heyo (I love you)” arm heart, as I somewhat sheepishly, wide grin and all, waved back.
The two layers of glass between us are sort of like seeing me on TV. And in Jangnim, a waygookin sighting is not nearly as common as, say, on Gwanganli Beach (where I was on Sunday, and saw plenty of them). It’s not like I could have jumped off the bus, ran upstairs and said, “hello.” Oh, what might have been …
Whether or not they love all the white boys they see on the bus as much as me, it did put a smile on my face and set a positive tone for the rest of the night, which concluded with a glass of Cabernet from Home plus (the Tesco Simply Wine collection on sale now, three bottles for 20,000! And, it’s pretty good!).
Sarang-heyo to you, too, Korean ladies.